Regular reader Nivico writes:
Have you been keeping up with the latest between the DOJ and Ferguson?
They wanted Ferguson to stop enforcing the ‘manner of walking in roadway’ ordinances that prohibit people from walking in the middle of the streets.
The DOJ’s lawsuit against Ferguson states ‘The residents of Ferguson have waited nearly a year for their city to adopt an agreement that would protect their rights and keep them safe.’;
Sigh… I’m scratching my head trying to figure out how allowing folks to play in traffic will improve their safety?
The DOJ has been “investigating” the Ferguson case via its Civil Rights Division. I put “investigating” in quotation marks because the Civil Rights Division in the age of Obama is infamous for coming to exclusively Progressive, social justice conclusions first and confirming them later through its “investigations.” Once the Obama Civil Rights Division begins an “investigation” there is no question that pervasive racism and violations of civil rights will be found, requiring the Civil Rights Division to essentially take over police agencies and entire communities, which is what is happening in Ferguson.
The vehicles through which the DOJ takes over agencies and communities are statistical pseudo-analysis and disparate impact. It’s a means of unfailingly finding discrimination and racism, which doesn’t require such messy and unreliable things as facts or reality. In fact, it requires very little–if any–research or investigation. It works like this: say a community is 64% black, but the police department that serves it is only 23% black. Racism and discrimination. Say 72% of traffic tickets for speeding in that community are issued to black people. Because the black population is only 64% that’s obvious evidence of racism and discrimination, despite the fact there are more than twice as many blacks in the population compared to white people and other races. Let’s say that 83% of outstanding warrants for all manner of crimes are issued on black defendants. Again, obviously this community is racist and engaging in invidious discrimination.
If this sounds a bit far fetched, it is exactly what the DOJ is doing in Ferguson. Consider this news release from the DOJ, where Attorney General Loretta Lynch is carrying on in the worst tradition of Eric Holder:
Justice Department Files Lawsuit to Bring Constitutional Policing to Ferguson, Missouri
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced today that the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the city of Ferguson, Missouri, alleging a pattern or practice of law enforcement conduct that violates the First, Fourth and 14th Amendments of the Constitution and federal civil rights laws.
‘Today, the Department of Justice is filing a lawsuit against the city of Ferguson, Missouri, alleging a pattern or practice of law enforcement conduct that violates the Constitution and federal civil rights laws,’ said Attorney General Lynch. ‘The residents of Ferguson have waited nearly a year for their city to adopt an agreement that would protect their rights and keep them safe. They have waited nearly a year for their police department to accept rules that would ensure their constitutional rights and that thousands of other police departments follow every day. They have waited nearly a year for their municipal courts to commit to basic, reasonable rules and standards. But residents of Ferguson have suffered the deprivation of their constitutional rights – the rights guaranteed to all Americans – for decades. They have waited decades for justice. They should not be forced to wait any longer.’
‘Our investigation found that Ferguson’s policing and municipal court practices violate the Constitution, erode trust and undermine public safety,’ said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. ‘As shown by our lawsuit today, the Justice Department will continue to vigorously enforce the law to ensure that Ferguson implements long-overdue reforms necessary to create constitutional, effective and accountable policing. Ferguson residents and police officers deserve a law enforcement system that productively and fairly serves the entire community.’
The lawsuit, filed pursuant to Section 14141 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), alleges that the city of Ferguson, through its police department and municipal court:
*conducts stops, searches and arrests without legal justification, and uses excessive force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment;
*interferes with the right to free expression in violation of the First Amendment;
*prosecutes and resolves municipal charges in a manner that violates due process and equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment; and
*engages in discriminatory law enforcement conduct against African Americans in violation of the 14th Amendment and federal statutory law.
The lawsuit follows a comprehensive investigation of Ferguson’s police department and municipal court conducted by the Civil Rights Division. In March 2015, the department detailed its investigative findings in a 104-page report. The department found that Ferguson’s focus on generating revenue over public safety, together with racial bias, has a profound effect on Ferguson’s police and court practices, resulting in conduct that routinely violates the Constitution and federal civil rights laws.
The complaint alleges that from October 2012 to October 2014, African Americans were more than twice as likely to be searched, to receive a citation or to be arrested, than other stopped individuals. Of all incidents from 2010 to August 2014, African Americans account for 88 percent of all incidents in which a Ferguson police officer reported using force. For municipal offenses where Ferguson police officers have a high degree of discretion in charging, African Americans were again disproportionately represented as compared to their relative representation in Ferguson. While African Americans make up 67 percent of the Ferguson’s population, they make up 95 percent of manner of walking in roadway charges; 94 percent of failure to comply charges; 92 percent of resisting arrest charges; 92 percent of disturbing the peace charges; and 89 percent of failure to obey charges. The department also found that Ferguson’s law enforcement conduct has created a lack of trust between the police department and the community members it serves, especially African Americans.
On Feb. 9, the Ferguson City Council voted to reject the consent decree that the city’s negotiating team had negotiated. Unable to reach a mutually agreed upon court-enforceable settlement to remedy the department’s findings, the lawsuit was filed today in order to seek declaratory and injunctive relief to remedy the unlawful conduct identified by the department’s investigation.
This matter was investigated by attorneys from the Civil Rights Division.
In analyzing this remarkable news release, I will be, in large part, repeating myself, so I’ll endeavor to keep my comments concise.
conducts stops, searches and arrests without legal justification, and uses excessive force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment;
If the Ferguson PD were actually engaging in massive false arrests—which is what is being alleged here—local attorneys would have had a field day suing Ferguson, but apparently, no such thing has occurred. What the DOJ is effectively demanding is that the Ferguson PD no longer arrest black people—for any reason.
interferes with the right to free expression in violation of the First Amendment;
I admit to being entirely puzzled by this one, unless the DOJ is asserting that keeping people from rioting, committing arson, and a variety of other crimes is deny them First Amendment rights, which would certainly be something this DOJ would do.
prosecutes and resolves municipal charges in a manner that violates due process and equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment; and
All available evidence is that Ferguson conducts its justice system exactly as virtually every other city in America does. When people are issued a ticket, or charged with a crime, they’re expected to pay the ticket or appear in court to contest the charge. If they don’t, an arrest warrant is issued to bring them to court to explain. If found guilty of offenses, fines, based on an approved schedule, are imposed. If they don’t pay those fines, arrest warrants are issued to bring them to court to sort it out. These procedures are not only constitutional, they are race neutral. If you don’t commit crimes, you’ll have no involvement with the criminal justice system.
The DOJ is, again, essentially demanding that black people be immune from the criminal justice process, and that any outstanding warrants or fines be forgiven and no new arrests or sentences or fines be imposed. In effect, it’s a perpetual get out of jail free card for black people in Ferguson.
engages in discriminatory law enforcement conduct against African Americans in violation of the 14th Amendment and federal statutory law.
Again, this is disparate impact thinking:
While African Americans make up 67 percent of the Ferguson’s population, they make up 95 percent of manner of walking in roadway charges; 94 percent of failure to comply charges; 92 percent of resisting arrest charges; 92 percent of disturbing the peace charges; and 89 percent of failure to obey charges.
What the DOJ obviously did not ask in their “investigation” is why black people comprise 95% of “walking in roadway charges.” Could it be that black people simply violate that law more than any other racial group? It was, in fact, Michael Brown’s walking down the middle of a roadway while drugged, after robbing a convenience store, that drew Officer Darren Wilson’s attention.
It must be understood that while walking down the middle of the street is an offense in the lowest misdemeanor class, it is no less a crime than any other offense in that class, and it directly involves public safety more than most. What is the point of all the money spent to construct sidewalks if people are free to walk in the streets?
This particular law is also entirely race neutral and easy to prove. Was the person charged walking in the street or not? What does their color matter, or perhaps the DOJ intends to argue that walking in the street is a noble, unique and essential characteristic of black culture that ought to be impervious to legislation? It is ridiculously easy for anyone, of any race, to avoid arrest for this crime: don’t walk in the street. The law prevents injuries to pedestrians, saves billions in insurance payouts and unnecessary medical care, preserves the peace, and prevents, for innocent, unsuspecting drivers, the trauma of hitting someone with a motor vehicle. The DOJ’s obsession with this particular issue is reasonably understandable only as a means to immunize black people from arrest and to obtain political/social justice outcomes.
Could it also be true that far more black than white people violate these other laws? If so, that would be in line with the facts of offending across America where black people, as a group, commit all manner of crimes at rates far outstripping their population distribution.
To the DOJ, it doesn’t matter whether each and every one of those arrests is entirely justified. It doesn’t matter if black people commit those offenses far more often than white people. The DOJ need not ask or investigate to determine facts, and I’m reasonably sure it does not and did not in the Ferguson case. What matters is that 67% of Ferguson residents are black, so if Ferguson PD arrests of black people in any category exceed 67%, this represents prima facie evidence of racism and discrimination, and “profiling” is usually tossed in for good measure.
The DOJ is also demanding that the Ferguson PD, an agency of some 50 officers, be forced to become “more diverse.” In other words, hire more black officers, presumably until the number of black officers reaches the 67%–or higher–level.
As I’ve written before, we have no idea how many qualified black candidates have applied to be Ferguson officers. In Missouri, by state law, candidates for any police job, anywhere, must show up with a state certification, for which they must pay, in hand. This requires taking and passing a basic police training course of around 6 month’s duration. We also have no idea how many openings the Ferguson PD has had in the last decade. Agencies of only 50 officers may go many years without a single opening, and openings tend to be few. If there is any evidence that the Ferguson PD has, in any way, been denying qualified candidates employment, even the DOJ is not producing it. But with the wonders of disparate impact, such trifles as evidence and proof are not necessary, in fact, they’re absolutely to be avoided as they tend to invalidate disparate impact theory and expose the DOJ’s actions as racist. Ferguson’s black population is 67%, black people comprise less than 67% of Ferguson officers, ergo, the Ferguson PD must be racist and discriminatory.
The DOJ is also demanding millions of Ferguson for administrating its takeover of the Ferguson PD and the City, which has caused the City Council, whose budget is not much over $10 million dollars per year, to vote to cap payouts to the DOJ at $1 million per year. Ferguson is nearly $3 million in debt, mostly due to overtime and loss of tax revenue from the riots that damaged a substantial portion of the town of about 20,000. Property values have dropped below 50% of their pre-riot levels, badly damaging Ferguson’s tax revenue base. It is likely that the DOJ’s demands will require the disbanding of the Ferguson PD, and perhaps even the bankrupting of the City.
The DOJ has taken this into account, and is also demanding that its mandates be applied to any police agency that takes over policing in Ferguson if the Ferguson PD is disbanded. In other words, any agency the DOJ has not “investigated” will be presumed to be as racist and discriminatory as the Ferguson PD, and will be subject to the same sanctions for the crime of providing police services to Ferguson residents.
Ultimately, what the DOJ is seeking to accomplish, besides pandering to the black population and wielding raw, naked power, is not to change any evil perpetrated by white police officers in Ferguson, Missouri. This is all about Ferguson’s black residents. Changing the criminal behavior of an entire race is very difficult, if not impossible, so the racist leftists of the DOJ seek to change the statistics instead. If too many black people are being arrested for walking down the middle of the street, stop arresting black people for walking down the middle of the street, and the statistics will change to reflect the DOJ’s deranged idea of racial propriety.
The rule of law exists only when the law applies to everyone, regardless of race. If some people, or groups of people, are immune from arrest, there is no rule of law, only a barnyard tyranny where some animals are more equal than others. That’s the Obama DOJ’s goal. That’s the legacy of Michael Brown.